The Sex Offenders Act 2001 contains a comprehensive set of provisions aimed at protecting children and other persons. The Act makes persons convicted of a range of sexual offences subject to notification requirements under its Part 2, including notification of changes of address. The provisions of the Act also extend to any offenders convicted abroad of the same range of sexual offences who enter the State, including from Northern Ireland.
Under section 10 of the Act, offenders are required to notify the Garda Síochána of their name and home address within seven days of becoming subject to the notification requirement. Notification is made at any Garda divisional or district headquarters and may be done so in person or by post. Thereafter, offenders must, within seven days of the event, notify the Gardaí of any subsequent changes to their name or address. Offenders who leave the State for an intended continuous period of seven days or more must inform the Gardaí in advance of their leaving.
An Garda Síochána has a system in place for the monitoring of all persons subject to these requirements. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit monitors and manages the notification provisions and maintains all information relating to persons who have obligations under the Act. There is a nominated Garda Inspector in each Garda Division who has responsibility for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Act in their Division. As soon as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit is advised by a relevant authority, such as the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service or a foreign law enforcement agency, of the impending release or movement of a sex offender, this information is immediately passed to the nominated Inspector.
A High Level Group set up by my Department and also involving An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service and the HSE is examining the arrangements in place for the management of sex offenders with a view to strengthening inter-agency co-operation and further enhancing public protection and safety. The group's remit includes a review of the procedures and legislation relating to the assessment, monitoring and supervision of convicted sex offenders.
I am currently reviewing the criminal law on sexual offences, including the provisions of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. The review is taking into account the relevant legislative provisions in force in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Should the need for changes to the law in this area be identified, I will bring proposals to Government seeking approval for the preparation of appropriate amendments to the legislation.
The criminal law contains a range of penalties for sexual offences, including, under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, imprisonment for life on conviction on indictment for aggravated sexual assault and rape (section 4). The courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. With regard to statistical information on sentences, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998, which includes (under section 5(c)) the provision of statistical and other related information.